CNN Covers July 4 Tea Parties, But Anchor Hopes 'They'll Clear Out of the Way' for Fireworks

July 6th, 2009 11:41 PM

CNN sent its deputy political editor Paul Steinhauser to Capitol Hill on Saturday morning to file a few reports from a Fourth of July Tea Party protest at Upper Senate Park. In no way did he repeat Susan Roesgen’s infamously combative "this is not really family viewing" fight with protesters, and Anderson Cooper was nowhere to be found with raunchy "teabagging" jokes. Anchor Brooke Baldwin did suggest they needed to go home at some point: "Of course, exercising that First Amendment right to protest, but hopefully, they'll clear out of the way for the fireworks tonight."

In the 11 am hour, Steinhauser straightforwardly explained the organizers’ aims:

STEINHAUSER: This is -- these tea parties, as they're called, they're being held -- their Web site says, at about 1,500 places across the country. This is round two. If you remember, there were tea parties, rallies, on April 15th, Tax Day. And that's really what this is all about. TEA stands for "taxed enough already." Our CNN Team here spoke to some in the rally crowd. Take a listen to what they had to say.

SEAN ALBERT, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA: They're wasting all of our money. They're not running the government like we would run our checkbooks. So, when I'm out of money, I stop spending money. And if you do the same thing, it would be what reasonable people do....

STEINHAUSER: And, Brooke, I said -- as I said earlier, the crowd here is definitely getting larger and more and more people attending. They're going to be going for a couple more hours and we're going to be here for it all -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Paul, it's kind of tough to hear some of those people out there because the music is so loud. I'm sure this whole movement is gaining a little bit of momentum where you are, across from the Capitol. But what specific issues -- what are some of the specific complaints that these protesters are focusing on?

STEINHAUSER: Well, a lot of what they're saying here is that they're worried about the government getting too involved in private business. They point out the bailout of Wall Street. They talk about how the government is getting too involved in General Motors and Chrysler, the big auto companies. They also talk about the federal budget deficit getting way out of whack. And they have major concerns -- that as well as the stimulus package. You know what? If you look at some recent polls by Americans, Brooke, more and more Americans are getting worried about the U.S. federal budget deficit -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: All right. Paul, thank you. Of course, exercising that First Amendment right to protest, but hopefully, they'll clear out of the way for the fireworks tonight.

This off-hand remark clearly exposed Baldwin as someone who's never seen the fireworks in Washington. Being on the Senate side of the Capitol is a bad location to try and see the fireworks, which fly more than a mile west of the Capitol. You wouldn't have to "clear out of the way" for crowds.

Steinhauser also did a stand-up report during the noon hour Eastern time, but this time the quotes from protesters were a little vague and defensive:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we'll see I guess, at the end of this how you all portray us, but we're just regular citizens speaking up for our rights and it's just part of taking personal responsibility for your own life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They really need to be more transparent in than they once said we're going to be. Read the documents, explain what's going inside those documents to the American people.

CNN repeated a part of this report in the 4 pm hour, but these three reports were a small bucket compared to the ongoing Michael Jackson news flood. That’s where Roesgen was, in front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles talking up the Tuesday memorial service.

The tea parties also drew a story on Saturday’s CBS Evening News. This story, too, was mostly explanatory, even if it suggested the Republicans had a long slog back to popularity:

JEFF GLOR, anchor: In scores of communities tonight, people spent their 4th of July not celebrating but protesting. Taking a cue from the 1773 Boston Tea Party, they rallied against federal tax and spending policies. Terrell Brown has more.

TERRELL BROWN: Fireworks of a different sort this Independence Day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am as mad as hell.

BROWN: Thousands of activists held rallies in cities across the country, protesting big government and big government spending.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The government is way too big, taxes are way too high, and this country is in trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are spending our money, our children`s money, our grandchildren`s money. And they are just going to continue to push this country into debt and they are going to destroy the economy of America.

BROWN: Similar so-called tea parties spring up around the country last April to blast the economic stimulus package, a movement championed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is big in Texas.

BROWN: -- by high profile conservatives.

BROWN (on camera): Many of the sings here blame President Obama for making the problems worse. But the people we talked to are just as upset with Republicans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I supported Republicans all my life. I don`t think I am anymore.

BROWN: Political analysts say conservative Republicans are hoping these rallies give them the united front they desperately need.

ANDY BARR, POLITICO: The movement has certainly given fiscal conservatives something to hold on to. You talk to a number of Republican strategists in Washington, and they are all looking for ways to kind of grab that energy and put it into campaigns. So far they haven`t done it.

BROWN: That energy Republicans seem to need now more than ever.

BARR: The last few weeks they have taken a bruising, with John Ensign, the senator from Nevada, Mark Sanford going down, and, of course, Sarah Palin resigning her spot yesterday.

BROWN: And we are in Boston tonight, Jeff, as you mentioned, home of the first tea party. That was 236 years ago. Organizers of this grass roots effort hope to go national in September with a march on Washington -- Jeff?

GLOR: All right, Terrell Brown in Boston this evening. Terrell, thank you.

This generosity by CBS might be explained by CBS cameras being in town for their 10 pm airing of the Boston Pops Fireworks Celebration, but these stories on CBS and CNN suggest that the Fourth was a good (and relatively news-free) date for getting some attention for Obama critics.